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Monday, January 7, 2013

A Start-Up Clips the Web but Doesn\'t Broadcast It

Gary Flake believes that a lot of people who share images and other content through social networking services are mostly performing, cultivating artificial online versions of themselves aimed at impressing others.

Naturally, Mr. Flake, a veteran technologist who has held senior positions at Microsoft and Yahoo, has a solution, a service that he believes is a more authentic reflection of its members' interests, and he has just raised a new round of financing to help it grow.

Clipboard, the start-up founded by Mr. Flake, has echoes of Pinterest, the popular site for sharing images from the Web. As with Twitter, Pinterest members can follow the image galleries created by other members and publicly share their own.

Clipboard, in contrast, lets its members save entire Web pages, including images, video and text, or just pieces of them to a personal Web page. Although Clipboard members can share their galleries with others, the company doesn't push public sharing as hard as others. About 80 percent of everything Clipboard members save through the service is left private, according to Mr. Flake.

The material they save, as a result, is decidedly personal and practical, said Mr. Flake, the company's chief executive. Online shoppers use Clipboard to save Web pages for products so they can more easily compare them. Clipboard is also popular with programmers, who use it to save chunks of code from Web pages.

“There's a big difference between saving for yourself and saving with an eye towards broadcasting for the world,” said Mr. Flake. “On Facebook, I have a persona - this is Gary Flake, the witty version. Everything there is for supporting the fake version of me. Stuff I save for myself is much more boring and mundane.”

The material on Pinterest, he believes, is “much more a statement of hopes, values and ideals. It's not focused on getting stuff done or an accurate repr esentation of what I'm trying to accomplish on a given day.”

Clipboard, based in Bellevue, Wash., announced on Monday that it had taken an  investment from Scientia, a provider of scheduling services for educational institutions. The two companies will collaborate on developing services geared to the education market. The financing - Clipboard declined to disclose the amount â€"
is the company's largest investment so far. The start-up has already raised a $1.5 million seed round of financing from Andreessen Horowitz, Index Ventures and others.

Of course, it's a lot harder to become a big Internet property if your focus is mostly on private saving of Web material. Clipboard, which began testing its service in late 2011, surpassed 100,000 registered users in December, and it is showing an average 40 percent month-over-month growth rate. Pinterest had 26 million unique visitors in October, according to Comscore.

“There were ways for us to grow much faster than we have, but I think we found a good compromise,” Mr. Flake said.